Fantasy Mystery Comics Non-Fiction Fiction

The Fencing Master

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Fencing Master (1988) Arturo Perez-Reverte translated by Margaret Jull Costa (1998)

I initially didn’t realize that this books were originally in Spanish, and was a little unsure when I realized they were translated, but then decided that it shouldn’t make a difference, and so happily read the book.

The Fencing Master is set in 1868 in Madrid, Spain. Don Jamie Astarloa is a fencing master, one of the last. Revolvers have taken the place of foils in dueling, and so fencing has changed from a gentleman’s skill, to something more akin to a sport, a way for gentleman to exercise.

Don Jamie has a few students, has regular sparring sessions with the marquis Luis de Ayala, and spends evenings drinking coffee with a group of friends. And he is trying to develop an unstoppable thrust. The ultimate move.

I enjoyed this book. I’m a sucker for historical settings, and I’m fascinated by fencing, so this was pretty much a win-win situation for me. I am sure that there was plenty I missed by not reading the original Spanish, as I’m can’t read Spanish, this was certainly an acceptable substitute.

There were a few things that confused me though. As I’m no more fluent in Spanish history and culture than I am in the language, I found the titles and names confusing. Luis de Ayala is also referred to as the Luis de Ayala-Velate y Vallespin, the Marques de los Alumbres. And I have no idea what the remainder of his name/title means, which wouldn’t have been a problem, except for the fact that sometimes he is referred to be name, sometimes by title, so I had a bit of trouble keeping people straight at first.

The mystery is good, although I one scene gnawed at my mind, and I wasn’t sure whether it was a weakness in the writing, or a cultural difference in the writing that I wasn’t used to. But ultimately it didn’t disturb my enjoyment of the book, or the story in general, so I’m inclined to think that it was a cultural difference, and one that I think I could grow to appreciate in mysteries.

This is definitely a book that I am going to loan to my grandmother. I think she will also really like it. I’m also going to try and get Michael to read it. I think he might like it, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.
Rating: 8/10

Categories: 8/10, Historical, Mystery, Translated     Comments (0)    

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